by Aron Ali-McClory
There is something deeply broken at the University of Florida.
According to federal lobbying and tax forms provided by OpenSecrets, since 1998 the University of Florida has used our tuition money, to the tune of over $6.1 million, to build its institutional and political clout at multiple levels of government.
All while students suffer from outrageous on-campus living conditions, skyrocketing off-campus housing costs, an active anti-sustainability agenda from the highest levels of administration, and a depleted and underfunded mental healthcare service, the Civic Wellness Center.
However, when one looks into who actually serves at the highest level of our administration, especially the Board of Trustees, it’s not hard to see why our university continues to work against the interests of students and community members, and for the interests of corporate donors and the big-wigs in Tallahassee.
The University of Florida Board of Trustees itself is composed of real estate developers, bank executives, and high-rolling investors, many of whom are also huge donors to government officials like our governor, Ron DeSantis.
Given the recent scandal over academic freedom at the University of Florida, which caused the administration to briefly reverse course, as well as the looming influence of the state government over the universities’ curriculum, some might find it easy to see how UF might engage in such behavior.
However, what might not be so easy to see is the kind of solutions we will need to tackle this situation, and most importantly, how we get there.
Un-PAC, a student group at UF, is starting a campaign to pressure our university into adopting demands that will represent a first step in fixing our broken democracy and ensuring that the University of Florida is working and spending on behalf of the students who pay tuition, not the government, or corporate interests.
These university demands aren’t complicated – students deserve to know where their tuition money is being spent, and why it is being spent there.
Financial transparency is key to establishing a relationship of trust between us students and the administration.
We also demand that if our university chooses to engage in lobbying, it does so to improve our democracy by fighting for voter access and campaign finance reform.
Other demands for our administration include having voter registration at freshman orientation, and divestment from anti-voter corporations and politicians.
These demands represent solutions to the problems students face by not only making their voices heard but ensuring their needs are taken into account when important decisions are being made.
No longer will the University of Florida be able to hide from the student body that demands transparency, freedom, and fairness when it comes to finances.